Indra Jatra, the biggest festival of the Kathmandu valley, kicked off this week with the erection of a sacred Indradhoj lingo (wooden pole) at Hanumandhoka in Basantapur Darbar Square.
Indra Jatra or “Yenya” named after the Hindu God of Rain and also the King of Heaven, Lord Indra is celebrated with gusto for eight days with singing, dancing and feasting. Huge chariot processions accompanied with Lakhey and Pulu Kisi dance are the integral part of this vibrant festival. The festival ends by carrying out a chariot procession of living Goddess Kumari in the Durbar square.
The legend of the festival goes back to the Vedic times when Lord Indra once secretly visited the ancient city of Kathmandu to steal parijat (a night flowering jasmine) for his mother, but instead he got captivated by a tantric. Mother of Indra then landed down to earth to free her son Indra, and she promised to provide timely rainfall for the freedom of her son. From then, people of Kathmandu commenced celebrating the festival and also decided to dedicate one of the most colourful festivals to him.
The greatest festival of Kathmandu valley has bolstered outside also. Many Nepali living abroad started celebrating this lively festival with the great enthusiasm. Few years ago, Nepali residing in America celebrated it with Pulu Kusi and chariot procession of Goddess Kumari.
This festival is celebrated with great verve by the Nepalese Newar Gutthi community in Sikkim too. Sikkim was a part of Nepal before Sughauli treaty. So, the culture, festivals of Nepal are in the big game there.
Indra Jatra was introduced in Sikkim, in 2010. There is state holiday on this day. The festival commences with the Yosin Thanegu, the erection of yosin or linga. It is celebrated for a day. According to sources, a huge procession is taken along the streets of Gangtok after performing various religious rituals at Bhanu Park. A number of masked dance performances including Pulu Kishi, Lakhey, Mahakali and Sawa Bhaku add zeal to this festival. Another exciting events of the Indra Jatra Festival is the ‘Kumari Jatra’ where the living Goddess ‘Kumari’, an incarnation of Goddess ‘Telaju’ is taken out on a procession in a chariot.
Indra Jatra is the celebration of victory over evil. It also marks the end of rainy season.